Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Expelled from Amherst Academy for pranks, Samuel Colt always enjoyed drinking and carousing. When he needed money, he became Dr. Coult, demonstrating the virtues of laughing gas and explosives.
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He was also a clever and determined inventor, making strides in pistol design so a gun would fire multiple times without reloading. As an industrialist, Colt was the first to use an assembly line to put together a revolver with interchangeable parts.
Not averse to bribery, lobbying, product placement and mass marketing, whatever it took, Colt made Americans love firearms: The 1849 .31-caliber pocket pistol sold 325,000 units.
When he died in 1862, Colt’s estate was valued at $15 million (more than $350 million today). The Colt family sold the company, which is still in business, with more than 30 million pistols, revolvers and rifles produced since it was founded.
I spoke with Charles Morris, author of “The Dawn of Innovation: The First American Industrial Revolution,” on the following topics:
1. Strivers on Steroids
2. Western Steam Boat
3. Mixed Economy
4. Enterprising Cincinnati
5. Samuel Colt
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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)
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